Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Love them. Hate them. We can't succeed without them.

By R.J. Harlick

Do you read reviews? Reply to them? Review the works of other writers?

Hi all you crime fiction fans out there. I’m the new kid on the block or more aptly, blog. I am thrilled to be blogging along side such a gang of conniving criminal minds. Although Vicki Delany is a hard act to follow, I will endeavour to keep you coming back for more. Before I tackle this week’s question, I thought I would introduce myself and my books. 

I’m a Canadian author who loves the great outdoors and wanted to bring it alive in my Meg Harris mystery series. While most of the books are set in the Quebec wilderness Meg calls home, Meg does travel, to Canada’s far north in Arctic Blue Death and to the islands of Haida Gwaii on the west coast in Silver Totem of Shame, the latest and 6th in the series. I'm very much looking forward to its release in May.  While solving murder and the motivations behind it are integral to the series, there is an underlying Native theme.  In each of the six books, I explore traditional ways and the issues facing Natives much the way Tony Hillerman did in his marvellous Leaphorn and Chee series.  

There that’s it for the commercial, now on to the question, an intriguing one and very appropriate for me at the moment as I anxiously await the reviews to start appearing for Silver Totem of Shame.

I view reviews as an integral part of my writing. They along with book sales and fan mail are the only measure I have on how well or not my books are received. They help to reinforce the worthiness of the many lonely hours spent creating and honing the stories. Of course I read them, good or bad. And I don’t hesitate to broadcast good reviews to my readership via my blog or Facebook or as one line quotes on my website and other promotional material.

Reviews are one of the primary ways readers learn about our books. With so many books being published everyday, objective reviews by reputable reviewers are often the primary tool libraries and booksellers use for book ordering.  I would hazard to guess that more copies of my last book, A Green Place for Dying, appeared on library shelves than would’ve otherwise, after the good review in Publishers Weekly. 

I have frequently sold books at a store signing by simply mentioning that my book had been reviewed by a well known Canadian reviewer of crime fiction. It didn’t seem to matter whether it was a good review or mediocre one. What was important to the buyer was that the book had sufficiently raised the interest of the reviewer for her to put the time in to review it. Keep in mind, reviewers receive hundreds of ARCs and rarely have time to review all of them, so they have to be selective.

Reviews more than proved their worth on my last book tour. As I went from town to town to different store signings, my publisher had arranged for a syndicated review to appear in the respective local paper. I had numerous people come specifically to buy the book after reading the review.

I value all reviews regardless of whether they appear in traditional media outlets such as newspapers and magazines, on review websites, in personal blogs or online bookseller sites. They are all equally important to me.  I won’t however pay for a review.  Remember what I wrote earlier. A good review gives me a sense of accomplishment. Paying for one wouldn’t give me this, because a paid review has no inherent value. It is perforce a good review.

I also use reviews to help me hone my writing.  If a reviewer has objected to something in my book, rather than pulling my hair, I will keep it in mind when writing my next book. I have been known to send a reviewer a short thank you note. I don’t dwell on whether it was a good or bad review, but use it as a way of thanking the reviewer for their time spent in reviewing the book. I also want them to remember me next time one of my books appears in their pile.

As for reviewing other crime fiction books, I rarely do it. The crime writing community, particularly in Canada, isn’t all that large and so many are my friends. I feel that if I reviewed one book I would have to do them all. And if I did that, where would I find the time to do what I really want to do, write crime fiction.

There, I have blathered on long enough. I look forward to the ongoing dialogue with my fellow criminal minds. See you in two weeks.


Paul D. Marks said...

Welcome, R.J. Good points all.

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks, Paul. Looking forward to blogging with you.

Vicki Delany said...

Hope you enjoy your time here, Robin. It's a fun group.

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks, Vicki and thanks for putting forth my name.

Alan Orloff said...

Welcome to the blog, R.J.! Nice post (you've set the bar high for yourself!).

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Great post, Robin! Nice to see you here.


MJ/aka Victoria

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks, Alan, MJ. I enjoyed writing it. I can't wait to sink my teeth into the next question. I do like this idea of a topic. I'm terrible at thinking up my own.

Meredith Cole said...

Welcome R.J.! We're so glad to have you join us on the blog. Looking forward to you posts. (I love having questions to answer, too!)

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks, Meredith. I'm glad you get to go first. Gives me a day to collect my thoughts....:)

Robin Spano said...

Great to see you here! You make very good points re: the need for reviews. And it's true--the especially insightful ones can help us hone our craft going forward.

RJ Harlick said...

Good to see you too, Robin. Anyone ever tell you, you have a great name. :)

Susan C Shea said...

Welcome, R.J. We're happy to have you in the merry band!

Art Taylor said...

Welcome, R.J.! Don't know if you remember, but I moderated a panel you were on at Malice a couple of years ago, along with Tracy here as well, as I recall. Glad to be sharing the "panel" with you again here as well!

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks, Art and Susan. Yes, I remember the panel, Art. It was great fun and perfectly moderated...:)